About Chapt er 641
Chapter 641 is responsible for washing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial once per month. Our chapter washes "The Wall", in Washingtion, DC, on the first Saturday of every month from April through November at 0630 hrs.
At the Washington, DC VA Hospital we volunteer for events such as wheel chair washes, welcome home events, holiday gift giving and winter assistance programs.
We participate local community parades and volunteer with other organizations.
There is a strong feeling of camaraderie in our chapter because of the number of events we are involved in, throughout the year. Join us for some or all of these events, you won't regret it!
Up Coming Events:
November 1, 1130, - VVA National. After Chapter meeting the chapter will provide a lunch to all for your effort and commitment washing The Wall during this past year
December 6, 0900 - VVA National After a breif chapter meeting we change gears and start our wrapping of gifts for Santa Patrol for the VA hospital. Please bring items (no food) if you manage at least 100.
WINTER COAT DRIVE
VIETNAM VETERANS OF AMERICA CHAPTER 641
“The Wall Washing team for the
Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall”
SUPPORT OUR HOMELESS MEN AND WOMEN VETERANS
BY DONATING NEW AND SLIGHTLY USED COATS
SIZES: X-LARGE, 2XLARGE,
3XLARGE AND 4XLARGE
NOVEMBER 1 – JANUARY 10, 2014
DONATIONS CAN BE DROPPED OFF AT
8719 COLESVILLE ROAD, SUITE 100
SILVER SPRING, MD 20910
Monday – Friday 9:00am – 5:00pm
WE THANK YOU FOR YOUR HELP
SHARON HODGE (301) 585-4000 EXT.111
The November 1st Wall Washing has been suspended.
Due to volatile weather and shorter days Park Service has decided to wrap up the wall washing season in October.
2014 Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall Washing Schedule:
June 7, July 12 (second Satyrday of July), August 2,
September 6, October 4,
Chapter 641: Caretakers of The Wall
BY MICHAEL KEATING
It was back in 1995 or ’96, Silver Spring, Maryland, Chapter 641’s Michael Najarian recalled, that he opened a copy of The Washington Post and spotted a photo of young Marines washing The Wall. “Vietnam veterans should be doing that,” he exclaimed to himself, and then he put the ball in motion.
Najarian called the U.S. Park Service, the custodian of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and said he wanted to wash The Wall. There weren’t any groups that regularly washed The Wall back then, but arrangements were made and early one Saturday morning, Najarian, his friend and fellow Chapter member Art Wong, a park ranger, and a fourth man from another organization met at dawn. It took them about two hours to clean the memorial.
Najarian and Wong reported back to the Chapter on their experience. Those attending that Chapter 641 meeting immediately perceived the action’s power and significance, and committed themselves to the task. Through all the intervening years, during the early morning hours of the first Saturday of each month, spring to fall, Chapter 641 members have cleaned the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
They used to be responsible for the occasional fifth Saturday as well. But the Air Force Sergeants Association, which often joined them at The Wall, jumped at the opportunity to take over that responsibility when it was offered.
The number of men and women who show up varies from month to month. There are some chapter regulars, including Dave Gudes, Bill Gray, Bill Bennett, and associate member Sara Cox. Like Najarian, Bill Gray had heard through word of mouth that others were washing The Wall and thought that that was something he, too, wanted to do. When Gray joined the Chapter, Dave Gudes told him about the first-Saturday commitment. He’s been showing up ever since. Gudes joined Chapter 641 in 2001. He’s participated in nearly every Wall washing in the intervening eleven years.
Some groups attach themselves for a while or periodically. These include the University of Maryland ROTC and students from Catholic University’s Monuments and Memorials class. Every year Chapter members make presentations to the class on the significance of The Wall to Vietnam veterans.
Army Recruiters for the Military District of Washington sometimes join in. Members of Air Force Security recently helped wield brushes. At the April Board of Directors meeting, VVA Board members and State Council Presidents joined in. The Chapter welcomes everyone, and in fact they have been joined by members of Congress, CEOs, the homeless, and early-morning tourists. Some have heard of the Wall washing and simply showed up.
Generally about twenty people take part--regulars, non-member regulars, and a few members of Virginia Chapters 227, 617, and 917. The Park Service provides the buckets and brushes, the soap and the hoses, and Chapter 641 brings its own nozzles. The brushes are soft to avoid scratching the polished granite; the soap is “friendly to the granite” and doesn’t leave residue. The group divides into two teams that begin work at the far ends of the memorial and reunite at the apex.
Each team has a hoseman who first wets The Wall. Soapy brushes never contact the dry surface. Ten panels are washed at a time. After the hoseman sprays them, men and women with brushes carefully wash the granite surface while the hoseman wets the next ten panels. When he falls back to rinse the soapy panels, The Wall looks like it cries. The walkway is scrubbed as well. Ten panels at a time, the two groups make their way to the apex. Some wait patiently for the opportunity to wash a single panel.
Weather is generally irrelevant, although the Park Service can cancel a washing because of severe storms. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial has been washed in the rain, and even during a late snow storm one April.
Generally, the Wall washing is solemn and respectful. But sometimes the combination of youth and water can turn a Boy Scout pilgrimage into a frolic. And for some, it’s just entertainment. It also is about camaraderie in addition to reverence. But to underscore the group’s seriousness of purpose, Chapter 641 Sergeant-at-Arms Rodney Eng developed opening and closing ceremonies. The ceremonies are short and simple--the morning begins with a salute at the flagpole and the Three Servicemen statue, and ends with coming to attention, a salute, and a moment of silence.
Before leaving, the Wall washers face out and salute. Then they turn and face in toward the gleaming granite incised with names. Together, they salute.
To honor fallen comrades, they wash the Wall:
Chapter 641 Officers
Bill Bennett - President
Rick Weidman - 1st Vice President
Roland Kauffman - 2nd Vice President
Bill Gray -Jim Smith
Guy Hayslett - Treasurer
Roland Kauffman -Membership
Dave Gudes -At-Large BOD
Contact Chapter 641
VVA Chapter 641
PO Box 1748
Silver Spring, MD 20915